Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

A Finding Aid to the

John J. Tepfer Papers  

Manuscript Collection No. 586

1898-1986. 2.5 Linear ft.


 The John J. Tepfer Papers were donated to the American Jewish Archives by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, N.Y. The donors, by the act of donating the John J. Tepfer Collection to the American Jewish Archives, assigned the property rights to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to material in the collection are retained by the individual authors or their heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives. The papers are available to researchers in the reading room of the Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.


John J. (Jay) Tepfer (1896-1988) was a rabbi, author and faculty member at the New York campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Tepfer was born in London to a prosperous Orthodox Jewish family. After World War I, he studied economics and then came to the United States to attend Wharton. He abandoned his business studies after hearing Rabbi Stephen S. Wise preach and instead attended the Jewish Institute of Religion. He graduated from JIR in 1927, and after briefly working as a pulpit rabbi, returned to JIR to teach Talmud and remained on the faculty of HUC-JIR until his death.

HUC-JIR honored Tepfer on the occasion of his 90th birthday during the 1986 Founders Day celebration. In a recorded speech, Tepfer spoke of the three men who influenced him most: Rabbi Abraham Abba Werner (died 1912), a famous rabbi in London, his first Talmud teacher; Claude Montefiore (1888-1938), who taught him it was possible to balance being a Jew and an Englishman; Pinchas Rokeah, his uncle, an observant Orthodox Jew who was also a pacifist, who chose prison during World War I rather than serve in His Majesty's Army.

Tepfer was married to Naomi Flax (1903-2005); they had two daughters, Ruth and Nina.

Related Collections

Related material can be found at the AJA in the following collections:
Nearprint Biography File (John J. Tepfer)
MS-19 Jewish Institute of Religion Records
TR-490, TR-1202-1207
C-178, C-741, C-796


 The John J. Tepfer Papers consists of correspondence, writings, sermons, class and lecture notes, and miscellaneous items. A portion of the material consists of pamphlets and articles written by others on topics that were relevant to Tepfer’s research. Topics of interest include Hasidism, Talmud, and Mishna. The collection also contains a folder of material on Naomi Flax Tepfer.

This collection is not divided into series, and has been maintained in original order.


Box Folder	Contents
1	1	Correspondence (A-Z).  1940-1986, n.d.  
	2	Spiro, Dr. A (Cambridge, England).  Correspondence.  1954, n.d.  
	3	Writings and Lectures.  1921-1975, n.d.  
	4	Article, "Palestinian Personalities," in Avukah Annual.  1930.  
	5	Pamphlet, "Martin Burber and Neo-Mysticism," with preparatory notes.  1934.  
	6	Plainfield Sermons.  n.d.  
	7	Review of Balzac's Wild Ass's Skin."  n.d.  
	8	"The Parables," Eight Chapters.  n.d.  
	9	Speech and Program from HUC-JIR (New York) 50th Anniversary Dinner.  1972 May 31
	10	Founder's Day (HUC-JIR, NY) Tribute to Dr. Tepfer.  1986 12 March.  
	11	Hasidism.  Notes and Articles.  1928-1930, n.d.  
	12	Hasidism and Polish-Jewish History. Notes, articles, speeches.  1931-1942, 
	13	Hasidism.  Lectures.  n.d.  
	14	Hasidism and Polish Synagogue.  Original notes.  n.d.  
	15	Hasidism. Helman's notes and sermons by Louis I. Newman.  1932, n.d.
2	1	Early notes on readings, grammar, etc.  n.d.   
	2	Memos, addresses.  1950s-1981, n.d.  
	3	Notes re: lectures, scholarship, readings, ideas.  1958-1960.  
	4	Notes re: lectures, scholarship, readings, ideas.  1961-1964.  
	5	Notes re: reading, Hasidism, Schechter, ideas.  1970-1973.  
	6	Notes.  Personal, re: readings and ideas.  1978-1986.  
	7	Notes on Reading, Lord's Prayer.  1979.  
	8	Notes re: personal, activities and books.  1981-1986.  
	9	Personal diary.  1987-1988.  
	10	Tepfer's view of himself and poetry.  1983, 1986, n.d.
	11	Notes re: Bernard Shaw and Judaism, with an article and play by Shaw.  1907, 1912, n.d.
	12	Criticism of Baron's work.  1943.  
	13	Notes, possibly from Gottheil's course on Jews in Egypt during Talmudic 
		period.  n.d.
	14	Summer Institute (JIR).  1938-1940.  
	15	Memo to Dr. Nelson Glueck reporting Tepfer's daily activities at HUC-JIR.  1951.  
	16	Examinations.  1936-1967, n.d.
	17	Class outlines and notes.  1936, n.d.
	18	Teaching pages and outlines.  n.d.
3	1	Teaching papers and class notes.  1950s, n.d.
	2	Class notes.  1950-1952.
	3	Class notes.  1957.
	4	Class notes.  1959.
	5	Class notes.  1967, 1971.
	6	Class notes.  1967-1968.
	7	Class notes.  1968.
	8	Class notes.  1977-1978.
	9	Class notes.  1981-1982.
	10	Class notes.  1982.
	11	Class notes.  1984-1985.
	12	Class notes.  n.d.
	13	Class notes.  n.d.
4	1	Talmud correspondence.  n.d.  
	2	Talmud pages for lessons.  n.d.
	3	Talmud pages for lessons.  Mishna translation.  n.d.
	4	Mishna:  class notes and teaching papers.  n.d.
	5	Class notes:  Talmud (Hamafrid).  1955-1956.
	6	Class notes:  Mishna introductory material.  1970.
	7	Class notes:  Lamentations.  1971.
	8	Class notes:  Introductory Mishna.  1974.
	9	Class notes:  Mishna.  1979-1980.
	10	Class notes:  Mishna.  1984-1985.
	11	Class notes:  Legal concepts.  1951.
	12	Class notes:  Legal concepts.  1970-1972.
5	1	Jewish history:  Bibliographies, outlines, misc.  1938-1967.
	2	Class notes:  History.  1943.
	3	Class notes and sources for Jewish History.  1946.
	4	Class notes:  History.  1961-1962.
	5	Class notes re:  Poland.  1939-1940.
	6	Class Notes:  Polish Jewish history, Hasidism.  1959.
6	1	Script for play, "Jan Thornton:  A drama in Four Acts."  n.d.
	2	Articles by Jean-Paul Sartre.  1946.
	3	Herbert Baumgard Papers.  1949.
	4	Pamphlets and offprints.  1937-1975, n.d.
	5	Herbert Chanan Brichto.  1967, 1975.
	6	Memorandum book:  German words and translation.  n.d.
	7	Vocabulary cards.  n.d.
	8	Newspaper articles regarding Tepfer, Scranton, Pa. and Selma, Ala.  1928-1932.
	9	Naomi (Flax) Tepfer:  family correspondence, newspaper articles, 
		memorabilia.  1898-1983.
	10	Miscellaneous.  1937-1986.

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